LaPorte County, IN – A LaPorte County family is crediting a carbon monoxide detector for saving their lives.

The family was nearly poisoned Wednesday night at their Stillwell home after a hot water heater part broke.

CO is known as “the silent killer.” Roughly 500 people across the country die every year from CO poisoning, according to CDC data.

The Kender family says they’re thankful the deadly gas was detected in their home before it was too late.

First responders say the father and his children became sick due to high levels of CO.

“I of course thought the worst,” Paige Kender said. “It looked like a crime scene happened at my house.”

Kender didn’t know what to think when she got a call letting her know her husband and four children were being treated by first responders for carbon monoxide exposure.

“It’s one of those things you think, “oh, it’s not going to happen to me,” and when it does, it’s one of the scariest things that can ever happen,” she said.

Her husband Justin says he smelled something strange coming from the basement.

It was a broken hot water heater, but what he couldn’t smell was the deadly gas filling up around him.

He started to feel tired and nauseous, realizing something was wrong when his CO alarm started to ring.

He called the fire department, grabbed the kids and ran outside.

“Alarms go off at 35 parts per million,” said Jeff Hamilton, LaPorte County’s HAZMAT Director. “The readings we were getting in this basement were close to 100 at times, which is pretty high.”

There are no state laws in Indiana requiring homes to have CO detectors. It’s up to local governments to pass their own ordinances.

First responders say the Kender family is an example of why they’re so important.

“Every house needs to be regulated to have a CO detector in it on every floor,” Hamilton said.

Officials say hot water heaters and furnaces pose the biggest risk for CO leaks, even if the appliances are brand new.

The Kenders just thankful they had something to detect the problem before it was too late.

“Especially if you have kids, make sure you have them,” Kender said. “They are more important than you think.”

The city of LaPorte recently passed an ordinance mandating all new homes have CO detectors.

First responders say they only cost about $35 dollars to buy at the store.